Humane Society CEO: Michael Vick Will Be Given A Platform
I don’t think there’s any question that Michael Vick deserves a second chance to play football. He made a criminal mistake and should be thrown back in to society when deemed to be fit – and that includes working for whoever he wants (whether the NFL wants his image representing them is up in the air). He did something cruel which is rampant throughout the US and was a part of his upbringing. That doesn’t make it any more acceptable but like other American citizens, he’s paid his dues. What’s different about Vick is that he’s obviously a celebrity and his habits influence others, but it looks like he could be turning this all in to a positive. Vick requested to meet with Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle while he was in prison and told him he wants to be a voice against animal cruelty. Was Vick truly feeling this way or did the effects of being confined influence his words? None of us will know for sure until he is released and he operates in every day society. Either way, good or bad, he deserves that chance. In all seriousness, prison can change a man, man. Pacelle joined KNBR in San Francisco to relay what was said with Vick, what Vick’s role will be with the Humane Society, and criticisms that the Society is being used by Vick.
On his meeting with Michael Vick at the prison in Leavenworth, Kansas:
“Michael Vick reached out to us through Billy Martin, his attorney, and through some of his other folks in his circle. I initially thought that they were barking up the wrong tree, but I thought about it and I said, ‘Obviously we’re about change, we’re about giving people an opportunity to do better. And we’re not going to judge the situation, we’re not gonna vouch for him, we’re not going to urge his reinstatement, but we’ll give him an opportunity to do right if it seems like he’s saying the right things.’ So I said, ‘I’ll need to see him.’ So I did spend some time with Michael. He was contrite, he said he did terrible things, he said he can’t believe he did them but he did grow up with it and nobody in his circle really questioned it. He did know it was illegal, he knew it was wrong, at least in a criminal sense, and he was trying to hide it. And he said he regretted it, I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re being sincere but you’re saying it and you want to be involved in our anti-dog fighting campaigns.’ We do have community based programs where we actually have ex-dog fighters, ex-gang members who work with young teens who are drawn into the world of dog fighting and attempt to interrupt their activities on the street and convince them that this is a dead end pathway. I thought this might be a good program for him to get involved with because he could tell his story, and he’s obviously a macho guy, he’s a strong guy, he’s a professional athlete. I thought these young kids in the cities might look up to him. We’re gonna give him the opportunity, but it’s up to him. If he makes the most of it, good for him. That will begin to make amends for the crimes he committed. But if he treats it lightly, if he is not sincere about it, then we’ll be the first to criticize him.”
On what Michael Vick’s role will be:
“We’re going to give him a platform. I mean, he’s not going to represent us. Myself and other folks in our organization will represent the views of the Humane Society of the United States, but we will give him a platform to speak to kids about why dog fighting is wrong, why animal cruelty is wrong, why it’s a crime, why it’s wrong to misuse our power and exploit animals for no good reason. I mean, the reason that people engage is dog fights is to be thrilled by the blood letting and to gamble on the outcome. Those are not sufficient reasons to cause the distress and suffering, and often death, of animals. And, I think he can put it in terms that some of these kids will understand, because there are no heroic dog fighters. We see it on the streets all the time. In Chicago, 71% of kids who are arrested for animal cruelty crimes have felony rap sheets. I mean, it’s a gateway crime. The people who are involved in dog fighting are involved in narcotics traffic, they’re involved in gangs and violent activities, they’re involved in other criminal conduct. They’re not safe for our society, and I think that rather than kind of sequester them and ward them off, we’ve got to try to intervene on the streets. And we have a law enforcement approach, we were involved in more than 260 busts of animal fighting operations last year with law enforcement, we have a rewards program we pay $5000 to any individual who gives us information that leads to the arrest and conviction of an illegal animal fighter, we have tip lines. But we’ve got to attack the cultural problem. There’s just a bizarre phenomenon of young kids in cities getting pit bulls and engaging in street fighting, and we’ve got to arrest this trend.”
On criticism that the Humane Society is being used by Michael Vick:
“We’re using Mike Vick. We’re both using each other. We have an agenda to eradicate dog fighting in America. He can be a valuable instrument in that. If he can demonstrate that he’s a changed person, good for him.”